Fruit of Kindness
Call to Worship:
Good morning! Welcome to Christ the King church! Nice. It’s how church people are supposed to act toward one another. God’s Spirit is striving to work something more than social niceties into our relationships with each other though. He is sowing heart-level kindness, it’s more than just going through the motions of being nice, it flows out of heart that has become tender toward others in the same way Christ is tender and kind to us. True kindness flows from a living, loving relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why God’s Spirit has brought us here today! To grow closer to Christ, and as we do, genuine kindness will continue to bud and flourish among us too! Join me in today’s opening hymn:
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Galatians 5:23 ~ Sunday, July 14, 2019
Have you ever seen this image before? (Little girl praying to God: Dear God, please make all the bad people, good. And all the good people, nice.”)
It is interesting that in Galatians 5 where the fruit of the Spirit are outlined, the Holy Spirit led Paul to list kindness right after patience. Perhaps that’s because he saw both of them as essential qualities of love—the first fruit of the Spirit. “Love is patient, love is kind,” he said (1 Cor 13:4). That’s so true, isn’t it? I love author N.C. Wright’s observation: “When you love people, you find it easier (or at least a bit less difficult!) to be patient with them. And being kind to others is one of the most noticeable characteristics of a genuinely loving person.”
Kindness is a quality that makes a real difference. When someone does a kind thing for us, we usually feel touched and grateful. Typically kindness is shared in small acts of thoughtfulness.
A smile can be an act of kindness to someone who is feeling left out and alone. Helping someone across a busy street, assisting someone with carrying groceries or packages into their home, and watching a friend’s children for a couple of hours are all gifts of kindness. A kind deed brightens the moment, a reminder that there are caring people in this world.
Sometimes people might question why we do what we do. What’s our motive, our angle. Kindness breaks down that kind of suspicion and defensiveness because genuine kindness isn’t a selfish strategy. It’s a selfless act. In order to be kind to others, I need to put myself in their shoes and think what I would most want or need them to do for me—and then do it for them. Kindness seems closely related to the Golden Rule that Jesus shared, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Evelyn was doing laundry at a laundromat because her washing machine at home was broken. She hated laundromats because they were so noisy and hot. Evelyn had come early in the morning, hoping this one would be empty, and she was pleased that it was. Hurriedly she put her clothes into the machines and sat down to read an interesting book. Her husband was at home taking care of the children, and it actually have a little time alone without anyone demanding her attention.
A few minutes after Evelyn arrived, an elderly woman came into the laundromat, walked right over to Evelyn, and started a conversation. Impatient to return to her book, Evelyn responded briefly and wished the conversation were over. Finally, the elderly woman stopped talking and started doing her wash. Evelyn gratefully picked up her book, but a few minutes later the elderly woman was back, as cheerfully chatty as before.
In the ninety minutes that it took to wash and dry her clothes, Evelyn read only a few pages in her book because of the repeated interruptions by the other woman. Evelyn resented the intrusions and frankly was irritated.
Finally the older woman sensed Evelyn’s reluctance communicated and said honestly, “Please talk with me awhile. Today’s my eightieth birthday. I’m all alone and feeling very lonely.”
That story hits me right between the eyes. When I feel super busy, getting interrupted feels frustrating. I’ve got things to do, appointments to keep with people, work to get done. I know when I’ve filled my schedule to the brim, those are the days I will get really laser-focused on accomplishing what I have planned. That’s a good thing. But that laser-focus also means I’m not as aware of those around me, especially if they’re not part of the schedule I’ve developed for that day. On such days, when I interact with people the internal dialogue in my own head goes something like, “I hope this won’t take long. I’ve got a lot of important things to do and I can’t afford many interruptions today.” Ironically, I’m in the business of serving, but when my serving is all about accomplishing what I want, I’ve become self-absorbed, just concentrating on myself, my plans and urgency. Planning is an important part of being wise manager, but not every need can be anticipated so that appointments can be scheduled in advance.
What about you? Are you kind? Do you curb impatient impulses and quick judgments of others and deliberately act for their benefit over your own? When someone is saying mean or critical things to you, have you learned to offer a gentle answer that works toward healing rather than responding in ways that inflict more hurt? It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own agendas, our own thoughts, our desires, and our own opinions. This also explains why kindness seems so rare! Kindness consists of loving people more than they deserve. With that in mind, no truer words could ever be spoken: Our God has truly been kind to you and me.
I recently read about someone who says he wants to write a book on the life of Jesus and call it “a theology of interruptions.” Because, this person says, so many of the things that Jesus said or did in the Gospel stories happened because somebody interrupted him when he was actually doing something else, or on a journey, or visiting, or eating. Yet Jesus responded to these interruptions not with irritation and dismissal but with kindness and warmth. And in many cases he showed this respectful kindness to people whom society typically rejected and shunned.
Think of the woman who had continual menstrual bleeding for seven years, interrupting him on the way to an urgent medical emergency; think of the parents bringing their children when his disciples were wanting to get on with their private lessons; think of blind Bartimaeus who kept shouting over the crowd until Jesus stopped; think of the woman who anointed his feet at a meal, and scandalized the host. Even in Jesus’ excruciating agony on the cross, he was thinking of the needs of his mother. On an even grander scale, think of how Jesus allowed his enjoyment of the glories of heaven to be interrupted for 33 years to be born into our world, to face the hardships, heartaches, and hurts of this life, his life culminating on a cross, treated as the worst of the worst. And why? Paul tells us in the book of Titus: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5).
The evening before a big conference was to begin, the conference-director was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He had planned to spend most of the night getting the conference site prepared, taking care of the last-minute details, and ensuring everything was perfect.
Fortunately, several of the workshop leaders were conference “veterans.” When informed of the problem, they stepped in and worked as a team, doing all that needed doing.
Diane was one of the speakers-turned-helpers. She set up rooms, checked people in, found props for one of the skits, and made coffee for the other speakers. Several times during the day, a certain man came over to Diane and quietly offered his help. Diane was grateful for the extra set of hands and murmured a quick “thank you” each time he helped. But Diane did not actually notice the person who those hands belonged to. Most of the time her mind had been running on two tracks. On one hand, she was committed to making the conference run smoothly, and on the other side as a conference presenter she was thinking about the things she was going to say when it was her turn to speak.
Late in the afternoon, when the last session of the conference was about to conclude, there was nothing else Diane had to do until the final clean-up. This same man stepped in front of Diane, gently held her by the shoulders and smilingly commanded her attention. “Hi!” he said as he finally introduced himself. “I’m Bill. I don’t think you’ve noticed me, but I’ve been helping you all day. I was hoping to talk with you and get to know you a little better.”
Diane took a good look at bill and acknowledged to herself that she had been too busy to truly notice him. She was embarrassed for having been so insensitive. Diane apologized to Bill and genuinely thanked him for his help. They then spent the next thirty minutes talking, which was the beginning of a friendship that lasted several decades. Small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
That’s especially true if you recognize every kindness in your life is evidence of God’s presence in your life. Not only in the kindness you receive from others, but also in the kindnesses you show out to others. Jesus himself says it like this: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Why would your kindness cause others to praise God the Father? Because this sort of kindness doesn’t come naturally (even though it may be true that some people seem to be just more naturally kind than others). Kindness that is a fruit of the Jesus’ Spirit is not simply an outward change of our manners or social politeness; it is an internal change of our hearts. The kind of kindness cannot be pretended, nor can it be superficial; it has to come from within as poured out to us from our Lord. For that reason someone once said, “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, and learning.” (Frederick William Faber)
Consider this example. Lloyd and Sharon were new to the church, while Calvin and Sue were long-time members. Calvin made a conscious effort to reach out in kindness and befriend Lloyd. Calvin initiated contact, spent time with Lloyd, and assisted him with several projects. Amazingly, however, Lloyd seemed determined to sabotage the relationship with unfriendly behaviors, hurtful comments, and rude thoughtlessness. Although always embarrassed after one of these incidents, Lloyd could not seem to totally accept Calvin’s friendship or trust his kindness. Lloyd frequently accused Calvin of having ulterior motives for doing nice things.
Still, Calvin was determined to be a kind and Christlike friend, even under difficult circumstances. Calvin knew that God’s forgiveness was already there waiting to be claimed. So Calvin offered Lloyd that same kind of consideration. Calvin confronted Lloyd.
“You seem to be working very hard at pushing me away or at testing the limits of my friendship,” Calvin said. “I don’t know what kind of friends you’ve had in the past, but I promise you this: Nothing you can do will get rid of me or stop me from loving you and being your friend.”
It was the reassurance Lloyd needed, Lloyd experienced a psychological breakthrough and asked Calvin’s forgiveness for having been so difficult. They hugged, and the two became better friends.
Lloyd had been secretly afraid that one day Calvin would become angry enough to just walk away from the friendship. Subconsciously, Lloyd had been testing to see how much Calvin would put up with before leaving. When Lloyd heard Calvin’s promise, Lloyd was able to relax and to stop worrying about being abandoned. This is an example of a person who was doing hurtful things, transformed by the kindness of another, becoming a kind and caring friend himself.
People who develop the gift of kindness in their lives find that they approach relationships and friendships with the question, “What can I do to help or make things easier for someone else?” This lifestyle of kindness is the kind of lifestyle the Holy Spirit is seeking to work in each of us. One of the ways he develops and refines this kindness in us is through the people he puts in front of us.
How helpful is it to think of each new day, with its travel and its work, and its constant rubbing of shoulders with other people, as God-given opportunities to grow in showing kindness? You can prep your heart and head to do just that by keeping questions like these in mind:
• Who can I thank today?
• Where can I give a smile of appreciation?
• Who could use my help?
• Who can I show “the kindness of the Lord” to?
Connected to God’s Word and asking yourself questions like these, the Spirit of God will continue to work a lifestyle of kindness in you. And he’ll answer that little girl’s prayer in the opening of today’s sermon, with the good that you do as you show true kindness to those around you. Amen.